TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday that his wife, Casey, has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I am saddened to report that Florida’s esteemed First Lady and my beloved wife has been diagnosed with breast cancer,” the governor said in a statement released by his office. “As the mother of three young children, Casey is the centerpiece of our family and has made an impact on the lives of countless Floridians through her initiatives as First Lady. As she faces the most difficult test of her life, she will have not only have my unwavering support but the support of our entire family, as well as the prayers and well wishes from Floridians across our state. Casey is a true fighter, and she will never, never, never give up.”
Casey DeSantis, 41, is originally from Ohio. In the early 2003s, she interned at WJXT, became a reporter in 2003 and later an anchor at WJXT. She left in 2010 to become a TV host at The Golf Channel.
She met Ron DeSantis, then a Navy officer, on the golf course at Naval Station Mayport. They married in 2010 and lived in Ponte Vedra Beach two years before her husband first ran for Congress. She hosted a talk show on WTLV until they started a family.
Ron and Casey DeSantis now have three children under age 5 — the youngest becoming the first baby born in Florida’s governor’s mansion in more than 50 years.
“I see this in my practice all the time. I see young women in their 40s with kids that are still in elementary school and they’re diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s a big burden,” said Oncologist Scot Ackerman, with Ackerman Cancer Center. “Women who have their first child after the age of 35 have a higher risk of breast cancer than women who have their first child at a younger age.”
Ackerman said First Ladies Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan helped raise awareness when they were diagnosed with breast cancer, and he hopes Casey DeSantis will also inspire people to get screened.
“I think that with our first lady in Florida, Casey DeSantis, being public about this, is very good that she is. I think that many women who have been hesitant to get mammograms will now go out and get mammograms,” Ackerman said.
Susan Brown, with national cancer awareness nonprofit Susan G. Komen, echoed those thoughts.
“I think the fact that Mrs. DeSantis has gone public with her diagnosis will demonstrate for one thing that younger women can have breast cancer, that they can share their story and that can inspire others to understand that they also may be at risk,” Brown said. “Breast cancer in women under 45 is relatively rare. But about 9% of cases are under 45. We’re seeing more of that. If you look at numbers over the years, we’re seeing a little more, and part of is that women are getting diagnosed more, and that’s a good thing.”
The DeSantis family has received an outpouring of support on social media.
Our hearts are with Florida's First Lady Casey DeSantis and her family. We are all praying for you! 💜🙏— Nikki Fried (@NikkiFried) October 4, 2021
“The prayers of our entire Senate family are with our wonderful First Lady Casey DeSantis, Governor DeSantis and their entire family as they face this serious health challenge,” Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, said on Twitter.
Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Miami Democrat who has considered running for governor next year, tweeted: “All of Florida is rooting for you @FLCaseyDeSantis to beat cancer and for a speedy recovery. Our prayers are with the Governor, you and the entire First Family.”
Since her husband became governor, Casey DeSantis has led initiatives issues such as mental-health and substance-abuse services and chairs the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet. She leads several initiatives, including Hope Florida, Resiliency Florida, the Hope Ambassadors program and Character Education Standards.
“I want people to know that I think it goes back to this: When much is given, much is expected,” Casey DeSantis told News Service of Florida earlier this year. “And when I realized very quickly the impact that I could have, hopefully, on the state by just bringing people together to have a conversation, I thought, boy, there’s a lot we can do. And you owe it to the people of the state to be able to get out in whatever capacity you can to be able to do good.”
Mammograms are recommended annually for women 40 and older and earlier for those with a family history.
“Mammography screening is the best tool we have today for finding breast cancer early,” Brown said.
Treatments for breast cancer have advanced in recent years.
“With current medical advancements in technology, if you get diagnoses and preferably at an earlier stage, your chances, your prognosis is excellent, so I hope that she is hopeful today and is focusing on that,” Florida Breast Cancer Foundation President and CEO Tracy Jacim.
She said 10% of breast cancer cases are hereditary and anyone can get it. That includes men, even though it’s rare.
“There are things that you can do — what you eat, if you exercise, if you don’t drink a lot, if you breastfeed your children. All of those things reduce your risk,” Jacim said.
Jacim said her heart goes out to Casey DeSantis and her family.
“It’s tough to get a diagnosis like that,” she said. “And it’s certainly something you don’t expect at the young age of 41.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows 131,409 Florida women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018. The rate of 438 per 100,000 is nearly four times higher than the national rate of 127 cases.
Support resources for women with breast cancer in Florida, as well as information about preventative care, can be found at https://www.floridabreastcancer.org/support-resources.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.